Australian Open R4 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Schwartzman, Cilic vs. Carreno Busta

Rafael Nadal will continue what has been a dominant Australian Open campaign when he takes the court against Diego Schwartzman for fourth-round action on Sunday. Marin Cilic and Pablo Carreno Busta are also aiming for a place in the quarterfinals.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (24) Diego Schwartzman

The competition level at this 2018 Australian Open has not yet ratcheted up enough to trouble Nadal. Based on how the world No. 1 is playing, the competition will have to be seriously special in order to give him any problems at any point during this fortnight. Nadal is through to the fourth round having not dropped a single set while requiring only one tiebreaker in victories over Victor Estrella Burgos, Leonardo Mayer, and Damir Dzumhur. Five of his nine sets have resulted in 6-1 scorelines, including a triple order of breadsticks served to Estrella Burgos. And with that, all of the knee concerns that accompanied Nadal to Melbourne have evaporated into the summer heat.

Up next for the 2009 Australian Open champion and 2017 runner-up on Sunday is a fourth-round showdown against Schwartzman, who is 0-3 in the head-to-head series and 0-7 in total sets. Nadal prevailed on hard courts in 2013 (Acapulco) and 2015 (U.S. Open) before most recently getting the job done 6-4, 6-4 at last year’s Monte-Carlo Masters. If there is any good news for Schwartzman, it’s that he is playing by far the best tennis of his career these days. The 25-year-old Argentine made a run to the U.S. quarterfinals this past summer and he is back in the second week of another major thanks to Melbourne wins over Dusan Lajovic, Casper Ruud, and Alexandr Dolgopolov. This in an especially strong result for Schwartzman given that he just barely outlasted Ruud 11-9 in the fifth set on Monday. The underdog will have to raise his level considerably if he wants to even take a set off Nadal for the first time ever.

Pick: Nadal in 3 losing 11-14 games

(10) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (6) Marin Cilic

Like Schwartzman, Carreno Busta made unexpected noise at the 2017 U.S. Open and is back in business at another hard-court slam. The Spaniard capitalized on a favorable draw to reach the semifinals in New York, where he defeated Schwartzman in the quarters. Perhaps fatigued and also bogged down by the sudden weight of expectations, Carreno Busta all but threw away a berth in the Nitto ATP Finals with a terrible fall (although he did get to play a pair of matches at the O2 Arena after Nadal withdrew). The offseason was apparently just what the doctor ordered for the world No. 11, who has advanced in Melbourne with victories over Jason Kubler, Gilles Simon (via retirement), and Gilles Muller.

A second career meeting with Cilic awaits Carreno Busta on Sunday, with the Croat leading the head-to-head series 1-0 thanks to a 6-0, 7-6(4) win on the indoor hard courts of Basel in 2016. Although Cilic generally struggles against the very best players in the world (his 2014 U.S. Open triumph notwithstanding), he almost always feasts on opponents ranked below him–to the extent that he has had no difficulty being a staple of the top 10 over the past five years. So far at Melbourne Park the world No. 6 has disposed of Vasek Pospisil, Joao Sousa, and Ryan Harrison, dropping just one set to Pospisil in the process. While Carreno Busta would be favored on clay, Cilic will benefit from a relatively fast hard court and likely make this one-way traffic for the most part.

Pick: Cilic in 4

88 Comments on Australian Open R4 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Schwartzman, Cilic vs. Carreno Busta

  1. Gosh, Diego looks like he has just started playing. He doesn’t get tired…this turns out to be exhausting match for Rafa! I really hope it doesn’t go to five sets…

  2. Rafa seems to be losing the baseline rallies; he’s ceding court position to Schwartzman, allowing Schwartzman to step inside the court to dictate play.

    Why is Rafa hitting CC to Schwartzman’s BH all the time?

  3. Rafa has the break in the fourth now. He should be okay from here, but I think his tactics today have been poor. Standing way back to return second serves, and not being on the baseline during general play? He really should be dictating to Schwartzman, instead he has let Schwartzman dictate a lot. Still, Diego will wear out before Rafa anyway, so he has that as insurance.

    • Exactly. Schwartzman will go for broke but Rafa is allowing him to dictate play! Rafa is serving to Schwartzman’s FH at the deuce court time and again and the ball keeps coming back and with interest. I don’t see why Rafa cant use more body serves or serving to Schwartzman’s BH more at the deuce court.

      I have to say Rafa is having poor strategy against Schwartzman, why drop shot him when he’s so quick around the court? And, why going CC all the time? Maybe Rafa is not too confident about his DTL shots today.

  4. First time since the Muller match has Rafa given me so much anxiety. Something about his body language tells me that his AO jinx is back

  5. I think 3rd and fourth sets have been better from Rafa. Serve wise, FH accuracy wise. Should have got the second break but anyways he should close it out. He needed a tough match like this . What do other Rafans think ?

  6. Rafa is just so horrible with his serve and his returns today. He has missed so many chances; this match should be finished with a Rafa win an hour ago, and yet they’re still out there battling! Every Rafa service game is s torture, for him and us.

  7. See, every service game is a torture! Should have broken Schwartzman’s serve in the previous game! Now Rafa please break serve and finishes the job!

    Why is Rafa waiting till this moment, after 3+ hours, to turn aggressive? Why make life difficult for himself?

    • Lucky, Schwartzman has the second highest return rating in the ATP according to ATP website statistics. His return game is phenomenal. He makes it hard for anyone without a big serve to hold.

  8. Rafa did it at last. I have to think he is a little under the weather. He twitted, yesterday that they had lunch at the beach; I hope he didn’t eat any dodgy seafood there.


  9. Finally! So Rafa gets to retain his no.1 ranking.
    Credit to Schwartzman for playing so well and taking it to Rafa but Rafa I must say is not playing well, too defensive! He will have a hard time against Cilic in the QF.

    I said it earlier, I never like Schwartzman as Rafa’s opponent because Rafa too easily will be dragged into a defensive attrition war against such a player. His match is longer than the Cilic PCB match; and he will run even more against Cilic’s big serves and ground strokes.

    • I thought today’s match was not that bad and would give Rafa a good workout. Cilic’s match wont be a dogfight. Cilic does not do so much running and usually isnt that diligent.

      Rafa’s matches usually last 2hours, 2hours 15 minutes. With his next match scheduled for a day after in the night, I dont think fatigue should be a problem. I feel rather the other way around. If Rafa can end the match with good feelings, its rather going to give him more confidence than finishing the match half an hourly without any test.

  10. If he had to have a day off, I guess it is best he had it today. Some of the errors were so uncharacteristic. He will need to be at his absolute best if he has to win against anyone hence forth in this tournament.

    • You guy’s shouldn’t be down or too critical of Rafa’s game, he was playing a good player who has improved his game BIGLY.

      Rafa might destroy M. Cilic but i doubt that match would be easy.

    • I agree that if Rafa had to have a bad day, then let it be now. You just don’t see Rafa lose a set with three breaks and getting broken back every time, not being able to serve it out and losing it in the TB.

      I will be interested to see what Rafa has to say in his post-match presser. I thought he would be tested in this match. I thought Diego would give him a test, but not this! Rafa did have to raise his level of play to win the match. That is good, but four hours on the court is a lot for someone who had no match play coming in.

      It should make Rafa more match tough. He will need to be on his game for Cilic.

    • Sanju you can watch the full match or highlights on YouTube, it would be uploaded in a few minutes or hours, it would also be blocked in a few hours after it has been uploaded.

  11. As long as he is injury free , did not take any mto n his body language at end of match was should suffice. Cilic match will not be a dogfight n i am sure will be played at night.

  12. I only saw the last set but I liked what I saw, mostly. Shortman is one H of a player – l’m a sucker for little guys that play big tennis. But Rafa played very well in that set. I think he needed to be tested and he’ll be better for it. He looked happy at the end, and as if he’d enjoyed the match.

  13. Thanks Stanley. Saw it. It seemed super brutal. I felt rafa had letdown in set 2 but was fine the other 3. I hope it gave him good practice.I saw plenty of dtl fh from Rafa so not sure why it was said above why always going cc.

  14. I have a feeling Rafa wanted a little bit more court time and competition because his first 3 matches were a breeze. I don’t think he planned to lose a set but he certainly looked liked he wanted to stretch the match out because he wasn’t playing his ‘A’ game.

    Vamos Rafa!

      • Sanju,

        I agree with you. Rafa would not consciously make the match longer. Certainly not four hours. I think Diego came to play and his ROS was impressive. Also his speed on the court. He went for his shots and was very aggressive. Rafa responses well in the third set. He was fighting hard in the fourth set and did have to come up with some great shots to get the win.

        Rafa breaking a tiring Diego to win the match was good to see. He needed to be pushed to get into really good form. But four hours with s grinding match and long rallies was tough.

        I think this match was necessary for Rafa to go up another gear or two.

    • 2018 Australian Open: Fourth round presser
      A transcript of the presser Rafael Nadal gave after his win over Diego Schwartzman.

      Q. What made that really challenging?
      RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, of course. You can’t expect easy matches when you’re playing in big tournaments. Yeah, against good players.

      So, yeah. Yeah, was a tough match in general terms. I missed opportunities in the second. That’s the true. Three times break up in the second. Then you lose that many chances and you’re in trouble. But of course he played well, and he played aggressive. Yep, he did a lot of things well, and I didn’t play as aggressive as I did last couple of days. That’s why I was suffering more. Conditions out there were not easy this afternoon. Very humid.

      Yeah. And was a tough match. But very happy to be through, of course.

      Q. How much did you need a hit-out like that going to the second week, a tough match like that?
      RAFAEL NADAL: Is always better winning in two hours than in four. But that’s it. It was a good test for me. It was a lot of hours on court. Moments under pressure.

      So, yeah, a lot of positive things that I managed well. After the second set, it was a very tough moment. The third set was a great set to win, being honest. My serve start to work much better after the second. I started to win some free points again with the serve, because for a set and a half almost I didn’t win a free point with my serve. So that’s not good news during that part of the match. That’s why I lost that many chances, three times the opportunity to be break, to confirm the break, and I didn’t.

      Then in the third and fourth my serve started working better, and probably that’s why I am here with a victory.

      Q. You said you were suffering in those conditions. Can you describe how that was, how that feels?
      RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know if I said suffering, but everybody suffers in four-hours’ match. Tough conditions out there with a lot of humidity.

      Sometimes — I said the other day — sometimes it’s tougher for the body. You know, less hot but more humidity. Today was that case.

      Q. Was that probably your toughest match physically since the Del Potro semi at the Open? Thinking back at your matches over the last few months.
      RAFAEL NADAL: Was much tougher today than against Del Potro in the Open. I think so. I remember. I lost the first but then was 6-Love, I don’t know.

      Q. I think it was 3 and 2, I think.
      RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah.

      Q. Trying to remember the last time you played such a physically demanding match.
      RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, yeah, against Mayer, I think, in the US Open was demanding physically, too.

      Yeah, was a while since I played tough matches. I played some good matches in Asia, too, against Grigor, against Pouille at the beginning. Some tough ones, but of course not four hours is not the best of five.

      Was a good test, and at the same time, I said before, I prefer to win in two hours than in four. But being honest, too, moments like this helps to be more confident in yourself, in your body.

      And now we start the second week. Quarterfinals already. Now is the moment to make a step forward, to play again more aggressive. I know I gonna have a tough opponent in front now, Cilic. I need to play aggressive and play well. That’s what I gonna try.

      Q. Normally when you have to play a baseline player, anyway, you probably, I think, more confident than when you have to play a player who has a strong serve that depends also a lot on him. Is that correct what I’m thinking or not? You have to play Cilic, and he is someone who can serve incredibly well sometimes. Is it more dangerous for you from your perspective or not?
      RAFAEL NADAL: On this point, today is the most dangerous player that I can play against, because is the one that I gonna play (smiling). That’s the real thing, no?

      I can’t say another thing. All the matches are tough, and if you are in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, you can’t expect an easy match. Against Marin will be a tough one, but at the same time, is a beautiful match to play against a great player. We know each other. We played a couple of times already.

      And, yeah, I know I need to play well. That’s the real thing. I know I need to play well. That’s what I gonna try. I hope to be ready to make that happen.

      Q. Kyle Edmund just reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. What do you think of his potential?
      RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, he’s good. He’s a good player, of course, and for me not a surprise. It’s the normal thing for me. Was a little bit more surprising for me last year he lost a lot of close matches, I think. But, no, I really believe on his potential. He has a huge serve, huge forehand, and he hit very strong the ball, no?

      So I really think he gonna have a great year.

      Q. Do you feel like you’re at the same level as this time last year? Stronger or same level?
      RAFAEL NADAL: I do not remember what level I was last year. I don’t know.

      I am in quarterfinals, and that’s it. If I am not wrong, last year in the same round I was 4-2 against Monfils, 2 sets to 1 up for me but 4-2 for him in the fourth. It was a big chance to be in the third. It was a tough match, too.

      I don’t know, you never know about what’s going on. The most important thing for me is after not playing anything. Before here I am able to be in the quarterfinals. I played some great matches. Today a little bit worse for moments, but I resisted very well. Very happy. Very proud about the third and fourth set, because situation was not easy for me, and I was able to hold my serve all the time. Sometimes with saving tough moments.

      But I played with determination, and that’s what I gonna need, and I gonna need to serve well. I’m going to need to play with more determination with my forehand in the next match. I am focusing on trying to make it.

      Q. After Seppi lost, Fognini is the last Italian survivor in this tournament, and he has to play Berdych tomorrow. Would you be very surprised he could beat Berdych?
      RAFAEL NADAL: No, but it’s true that Berdych is playing well. He already had some great matches against de Minaur, a win against Del Potro 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. If you’re not playing well, it’s impossible.

      Yeah, Fabio is a player with a lot of talent. He can win against everybody. That’s my feeling.

      But maybe here a little bit more favorite, Tomas. But, yeah, it’s an open match.

      Q. Last year you and Roger Federer had this great comeback. Now it’s a little bit Djokovic time. What do you think about that? Do you think he’s capable to do the same kind of comeback after this injury?
      RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what he gonna do, but of course he gonna fight for the most important thing. He is too good to not fight for it.

      Source: Australian Open

      • See, Rafa admitted that he’s not being aggressive during set 2; also, he’s affected by the humidity and that’s why I’m worried about the heat affecting him.

        Rafa’s body can’t handle humidity as he ages, maybe because he’s one who tends to perspire a lot. I wonder can his doctor help him on this, like improving his diet and supplements to cope with humidity.

          • Actuall Fed is playing 6 night matches whereas Djoker and Rafa 5 . Thats not a lot of difference. Yes, they are biased though.

            • Rafa has played 2 till now , Djoker 1. Fed has a day match tomorrow. From quarters, I think both Fed and Rafa will have night matches. Djoker will have probably day QF. So, its not a lot out there.

            • Nole’s first two rounds were day matches.

              Federer has played all three evening matches, and now has a day match on cooler weather forecast against a No. 80 opponent in the round of 16.

              Federer also admitted to favouritism when pressed on court by Courier. He didn’t look happy about it.

    • The dimunitive Argentine is a fine returner. I just saw his return stats for last year and they are right up there with the best for 2017.

      • you are right! I just looked him up on wiki. He is said to have a deadly return game. He took a 2 sets to 1 lead on the djoker last year at RG too. So certainly no mug

            • I dunno, maybe. Rafa has a good record against Dimi. He might be more of a known entity, but the last matches have all been very hard. But Rafa might be a bit better than Dimi in the fighting department. And Dimi is in a good but not in a top stellar form. Good, that this year Rafa will have a proper rest if he makes it into the final.
              Rafa has a very good record against Cilic as well btw. Marin’s last win against Rafa was in 2009!

  15. And today we could see why Rafa is an all-time-great while A.Zverev with all his talent has such a poor record in best-of-five matches. If Rafa is healthy he digs in and accepts a gritty dog fight in harsh conditions while Zverev just melts away. He may have to harden up physically but I suspect that his mental attitude has a lot to do with his lack of success at the slams.

    • And it’s nice of course that no matter what happens, Rafa will defend his No 1 ranking. I guess it’s not all that important for him but for his fans it would’ve been a bit of a let-down had he lost his pole position in his first tournament of the still young season.

    • AZ is still only 20 years old! He expects a lot of himself, and he does get disappointed in himself when the going gets tough. When that happens his game leaves the building. He’s better than he was but he’s got a way to go. He’s got time, he’s from a really good tennis family. I think he’ll make it in time.

      • AZverev’s problem is his lacking of killer instinct. I find him always camping way behind the baseline and rallying instead of going for the kill at the right time. He has to learn when to pull the trigger and not let his opponent(s) drag him into a war of attrition. He has all the big weapons to blow his opponents off the court but often, he chooses to engage in rallies, gets impatient and starts making errors.

        He’s the opposite of Shapo; add the two of them together and divide by two and we’ll get the right balance for both.

          • Yes, Zverev’s slam woes do remind me a little bit of Fed’s early years.We will see. I actually think that Zverev’s tallness might be detrimental. At the AO website I found the interesting information that Cilic is the tallest player in ages who made it as far as the quarters. We’ve seen it quite often: tall players have a great wing span and can do a lot of damage with their serve but most of them don’t move as well as slightly shorter players. Considering his size Zverev actually moves quite well, but then, he’s very slim. Time will tell. It would be good for German tennis if Zverev maintains a certain level since it creates attention. Interestingly Zverev isn’t very well liked in Germany. A majority feels that he’s an entitled brat, but that might change if he becomes more successful. Kyrgios’ image has changed quite a bit lately – and rightfully so! We might see a clash between Zverev an Nick soon after the AO in the first round of Davis Cup. That could be very interesting. So far Zverev hasn’t done all that well in DC matches, but it’s some time ago that he played.

      • Ramara,

        Yes! People forget how young he is. He has to develop a bit more to be ready to win a slam. He’s done well to win Masters tournaments. But winning a slam is a while other thing. He’s a work in progress. I think he has a good team behind him. He seems dedicated with a good attitude. He will get there.

  16. Very interesting interview with Boris Becker in German Eurosport. He was of course enthralled by the Dimi/Nicky match, but he also commented on Rafa’s match. Becker thinks it was a great test and that Rafa is fully fit. Then he talked about Novak with whom he’s apparently still on very good terms. He’s glad that Novak is playing again, but he thinks that Novak isn’t 100% fit, yet. He also told a bit about his time with Novak and said that one of Novak’s weaknesses is being not very punctual. Now they broadcast a nice interview with Novak. He says that the key to future success is to be confident about his new serving motion which is less hard on his elbow and that there’s still room for improvement. He seems to be happy that he doesn’t have to play against Zverev. It’s nice to see how eloquently he can express himself in English.

      • Nadline, I meant the Djoker. He’s very eloquent. Boris sounds actually better in English than in German, lol! He has a very pronounced Southwestgerman accent which a lot of Germans find a bit annoying. It’s better now than it used to be, though. But he sounds more professional when he speaks English.

    • I dunno, I don’t think it will be just three sets.
      Interesting tidbit: Since Rafa won his 10th FO trophy against Stanimal in Paris he hasn’t played against a top 25 player in slams! Cilic is the highest ranked opponent since Paris. But of course Rafa has played – and won – against top players at other tournaments. Most recently at the Asian swing 2017 after his USO title. He won against Cilic and Dimi, which should be somewhat encouraging because these wins came on slick hardcourt.

      • What do you mean, Ricky: that Nadal won’t win in three, but maybe in fouror fve – or that someone not named Nadal (aka Ciic) will win in three???

        • Rafa/Cilic h2h: 5-1
          Rafa Dimi h2h: 9-1

          He beat them both back to back in Shanghai last year, and then lost to Fed in the final.

          • Yes, Benny, I guess so. Looking at the history between the two players ist’s unreasonable to assume that Cilic will win in three. But I also don’t believe that Rafa will sail through totally unmolested.

  17. If I had to put money down, I would probably bet on Rafa in 4. Although Rafa seemed to revert back to a less-aggressive style for much of he Diego match, he has reminded me in the rest of the tournament of the Rafa we saw a few months ago in Beijing and Shanghai. As deadly as Cilic can be every once in a while, I just don’t see him playing like that against Rafa right now, especially not in best-of-five. I still find a Cilic to be very mentally fragile at times. Maybe Dimitrov could push Rafa to another 5-setter, but I just don’t see anyone realistically being able to beat Rafa right now in Bo5, except for Federer. Obviously Novak is so great that if he just happens to appear back in his top form, it could be game-over for everyone. However, I just would not be willing to bet on Novak to win the title right now…. At this point, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know what I want- I want an epic Fedal AO rematch!!!

    • Kevin, looking at Rafa’s lopsided h2h against Cilic and even more against Dimi, and considering Rafa’s latest performances against the two of them on a fast hardcourt in Shanghai, then it’s sensible to put our money on Rafa reaching the final. The question is: why haven’t more tennis experts predicted that? I guess when the full tournament predictions were made nobody knew for sure in what kind of shape Rafa was in after his injury break. After three matches we can say that Rafa seems to be in better shape than we thought. But Dimi and Cilic are ok, too, and since they are younger than Rafa and since their previous matched against him were very tight affairs they will eventually beat him on hardcourt. Rafafans hope of course that it won’t happen next week.
      Fed has a similarly lopsided h2h against Berdych and it’s quite a while ago that Berdych beat him. But Fed’s h2h against Novak is negative, although Novak is still not at his very best and he hasn’t played yet this newest incarnation of Fed. Based on their recent performances and on their h2h against the upcoming opponents, a Fedal final seems to be in the making. But I wouldn’t my yearly income on it.

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